This 1973 Candytone Purple H2A 750 has totally blown my brain… Jeff gets lucky and scores a ride on a very original H2, finding out first hand why these triples are so legendary... Words: Jeff Ware Photography: Heather Ware, Keith Muir
The ‘Modern’ H1 supercharged beast was a highlight a few years ago. After the test, I had to ride an original H1 500 or H2 Mach IV 750. I wasn’t born when the H2 came out but I have read enough about it to get the picture. Wild, unpredictable, uncontrollable, insane! Or is it?
A while back I organised a huge two-day test fest of classic bikes and was lucky to have Erik Soetens bring along this H2 750, along with a mint Jaffa 900, custom Z900 and an Eddie Lawson Rep. It was, however, the H2 I was really keen to ride… Erik was a mate of my old boss Len Willing and was a racer in the 1970s, growing up with the Willing brothers and Mick Doohan and Kevin Magee’s old mechanic, Dudley Lister of Dudley’s Performance Motorcycles.
Eric has a neat collection now and has a soft spot for old Kwaka’s. He could not find the right condition Mach IV here in OZ so decided to bring one over from the USA where there seem to be quite a few around in mint, low mile unrestored condition.
“I’m not going to tell you what I paid for the H2 750 but it is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen,” smiles Erik as we chat trackside pre ride, “It still has the original paperwork of sale under the seat, along with owner’s manual and related paperwork, you don’t see that very often”.
The bike is totally original with old tyres as well, so kitting up to ride the bike, I’m getting bloody nervous – a bad reputation, even worse tyres, limited time and no self-control… Hmm, ahh, screw it, I’ve got a credit card if anything goes wrong, always wanted a triple!
KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVENS DOOR
Jeans on, classic jacket, classic gloves and a white Arai, I head to the H2 and get the run-down from Erik… “Don’t mess it up. Cheers”. Well, that was a quick briefing…
Erik has just done some laps to give the bike a run and make sure all is well before I head out and to sort a plug issue. The bike is dropping a cylinder so I’m hoping I get a good run myself before it happens again. I’m crossing my finger while I still have 10 of them..
I jump on the bike and can’t believe how light it feels or how narrow the fuel tank and seat are. With the wide ‘bars it just feels so different to what I imagined. To be honest, it feels more like a tourer than a performance nakedbike, even compared to a Z1.
I fold the right ‘peg up, turn the fuel on and the key, and kick the beastly triple into life. The standard pipes are so loud by modern standards and the engine vibes like any big air-cooled two-stroke. Three 250cc singles in a row, it is just mental!
I give it a few big revs to clear the pipes, grab first cog and head off out onto the proving ground feeling like Murray Saye. If only I had a pair of flares on…
As I short-shift and get a feel for the tyres and the brakes, I start to question what the bike is really like. It has a bit of torque, I’m surprised, and it is actually quite well behaved and easy to ride. The brakes are crap by modern standards of course but they work OK, there is no weaving, bucking, shaking…
There is loads of grip here, so even the worst tyres tend to hook up, so after a lap I wind that throttle on and open up the three Mikuni’s. Bracing myself for one of the most revered, feared, unpredictable powerbands after the KH 500 that I’ve read about, I go full throttle.
The bike pulls with force, building and building acceleration as the tacho swings towards 6000rpm and I’m grinning as I wait for this mega top-end kick then, as quickly as I get there, the power flattens out and it is time to grab third. I repeat the process, revving the engine to the 7500rpm redline.
Each time I’m met with a strong top-end but more useable power spread for a two-stroke than outright menacing arm-wrenching snap. It’s, frankly, disappointing…. The first time I’ve ever been disappointed that an engine is MORE useable than the manufacturer statements and public reputation says…
I get the hang of the motor and push on, this time I start to lap just about as fast as I feel comfortable doing on the bike, trying to explore the limits. It’s about now that the H2 turns from thrilling but controllable to a spaghetti monster trying to flick me into the Gum Trees. As the bike weaves, wobbles, bucks and tries to spit me off into the bush, my heart rate goes north.
I decide to slow it down after having trouble doing exactly that when the brakes faded after just half a lap of hard braking!
Smoothing things back out again, the bike becomes more civilised. It’s like my wife of a morning before and after coffee. The change is amazing, like two completely different personalities, and the similarities don’t end there as I realise, the older something is, the less it can be pushed before it snaps and morphs into an angry machine that wants to kill. It’s Widowmaker teamwork!
Just when I think I have it all under control, the bike drops a cylinder, just like that. I limp it back to the pits and hop off. I stir Erik up when he asks, wide-eyed with a big grin, what I thought of the bike…
“It’s OK but to be honest that thing would be learner legal these days”… I joke. He swears, etc.
“But the thing tried to kill me and I never want to ride one again. No wonder it has such low miles!”
At the end of the day, when cold beers were cracked and many a chat had with various owners present, we concluded that perhaps the H2 is, like just about all bikes of our own youth no matter our age, and any machine that was ground breaking, is more legend than reality and has had 47-years to build a mythical reputation through rose coloured visors. The original widowmaker, the 500, truly is a beast but the 750 is a more refined and forgiving motorcycle. Good on it, I say. What a trip…
SPECIFICATIONS 1973 Kawasaki KH H2 750
ENGINE 748cc air-cooled, three-cylinder inline two-stroke, 71 x 63mm bore x stroke, 7.3:1 compression ratio, oil injected, 3 x 30mm Mikuni VM30SC carburettors, CDI ignition, wet, multi-plate clutch, five-speed gearbox 1st 12.75, 8.64, 6.53, 5.42, 4.76
CHASSIS Tubular double-cradle frame, non-adjustable conventional forks, twin shocks with preload adjustment, 3.25 x 19in front tyre, 4.00 x 18in rear tyre, spoked wheels, single 295mm front rotor with single piston caliper, 203mm rear drum brake, 1410mm wheelbase, 796mm seat height, 183mm ground clearance, 192kg/423lbs dry weight
PERFORMANCE 74hp@6800rpm, 77.4Nm@6500rpm, 12.3 sec ¼-mile, 0-100km/h 5.0 sec, 193km/h top speed.